Opening remarks by President Franco Frattini to the Regional Conference on "Adriatic and Ionian Security Challenges"
President Berisha, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am particularly pleased to be in Tirana today, especially to discuss this important topic. Italy played a very active role in launching the “Adriatic-Ionic Initiative”, during the Conference on “Development and Security in the Adriatic and the Ionian Seas”, in May 2000 in Ancona.
This initiative includes all the States surrounding the Adriatic and Ionian Seas and its goal “aims at promoting development in this area with the final ambitious goal to integrate the Western Balkan States in the European Union”. I remain convinced today that this ambitious goal will benefit not only the countries of the area but will help building a more united Europe.
Transport corridors, energy pipelines, green energy production, blue economy, trade and investments, human mobility, environment protection, maritime transport with a more secure maritime space, are sectors where there is the need to implement strategic projects creating the conditions for innovation and competitiveness.
The vision is to help the development of an important area, interconnected with Central Europe, the Eastern and Western parts of Europe but also with the Mediterranean region. It was, indeed, not by coincidence that the Common Declaration that the Adriatic Ionic Council signed in Ancona in May 2010 announced the creation of a “macro-region”. And you all know that, as Italian Foreign Minister, I played a very active role on this.
I am glad to see that this concept of the creation “of an Adriatic-Ionic macro-region”, interconnected with the other “macro-regions” has now been taken on board also by the European Commission and the European Parliament as well.
Allow me to examine for a moment, especially when looking at the security challenges of the Adriatic-Ionic region, which is the topic of our conference, the interdependence with the Mediterranean macro-region.
Think, for example, of environmental, agricultural common perspectives, and social issues like migration and labour markets but also at issues such as transport routes and energy.
Looking at security challenges, in addition to commercial maritime traffic, the Adriatic and Ionian Seas and the Mediterranean Sea, are used by criminal networks, trafficking in human beings and weapons, which are as well exploited by transnational terrorist networks.
Terrorism has a cross-border dimension and it therefore requires cross border cooperation, through intelligence sharing, border security, the protection of critical infrastructures, consequence management, improved threat awareness, the development of adequate counter-terrorism capabilities and enhanced engagement between international organizations such as NATO and the EU and interested countries on a transnational level.
Maritime security both in terms of transnational cooperation among law enforcement and intelligence agencies and in terms of the protection of critical infrastructures and of energy supply routes against terrorist attacks is a common security challenges to countries in the Adriatic and Ionic region, as well as to those in the Mediterranean region.
The Adriatic-Ionian Seas constitute a crucial transport route in Europe, for passenger’s ships but also a critical energy route whose importance will continue to grow, especially when looking at the development of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). I strongly hope that all the parties concerned will even more strongly confirm their respective commitment to move to the operational phase of this project that Italy, Albania and Greece, among others, strongly support.
Storage facilities in Albania will also ensure the security of gas supplies to European markets during any operational interruptions. Clearly, the security of this critical infrastructure against sabotage or terrorist attacks represents a common security interest for all the countries that will benefit from the Trans Adriatic Pipeline. The security of the digital infrastructure of TAP from cyber attacks will also be critical.
I would like to point out, in concluding my remarks, that the New Strategic Concept of NATO outlines the importance of international efforts to ensure the resilience against attacks or disruption of the vital communication, transport and transit routes from which international trade, energy security and prosperity depend. It also stresses the importance of cooperative security in dealing with transnational security challenges, such as organised crime, international terrorism, energy security and cyber security.
It is important to note that the countries belonging to the Adriatic and Ionic region are members, partners, or aspire to become members of both NATO and the European Union. And my deep conviction is that are no alternative options, for all the Countries of this region, than the EU and Atlantic full integration.
I am convinced that complementarity of efforts between NATO and the European Union will be crucial to manage effectively the security challenges for the Adriatic-Ionic macro region. To this end, however, political guidance and strong political leadership are needed.
Defending citizens and their security is and should remain a top priority for all democratic Governments. We, European partners, cannot be seen as the “soft powers” appendix to US strong security provider.
So, the most important political goal, in the future of NATO and in times of economic crisis, is a stronger involvement of European partners, by encouraging coordinated political choices on where we can cut and where on the contrary we need new and fresh investments and also how to better organize a division of labour among Allies. In short, we need to work even more towards a complementarity rather than duplication, by making full use of existing “smart defence” initiative.
I use to say that Western Balkans are irreversibly part of Europe. And they should be also a crucial component of a strong, united and visionary Atlantic Alliance, through a process already successfully initiated and that we all are committed to encourage and support.